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Cultural Context, Sexual Behavior, and Romantic Relationships in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionHarding, David J. 2006. "Cultural Context, Sexual Behavior, and Romantic Relationships in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods." PSC Research Report No. 06-612. December 2006.

When culture is invoked to understand the consequences of growing up in disadvantaged neighborhoods, the isolation of ghetto residents from mainstream institutions and mainstream culture is often emphasized. This paper attempts to reorient current theorizing about the cultural context of disadvantaged neighborhoods, particularly when it comes to adolescent decision-making and behavior. It argues that rather than being characterized by the dominance of “oppositional” or “ghetto-specific” cultures, disadvantaged neighborhoods are characterized by cultural heterogeneity: a wide array of competing and conflicting cultural models. These ideas are applied to sexual behavior and romantic relationships among adolescents using survey data from Addhealth. Analyses show that disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibit greater heterogeneity in cultural frames and scripts and that, in more heterogeneous neighborhoods, adolescents’ frames and scripts are poorly predictive of their actual behavior.

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